WASHINGTON: An International media advocacy group, Reporters Without Borders, urged Pakistani authorities on Tuesday not to impose sanctions against Dawn and two of its journalists.
The group, better known by its French acronym RSF, also opposed the government’s plan to impose a “code of conduct” on the entire print media.
In a statement issued in Washington, the RSF said that it was “opposed to any sanctions by Pakistani authorities against the Dawn newspaper and two of its journalists, and is disturbed by government plans for a ‘code of conduct’ for the print media.”
The RSF noted that in a May 10 statement, the government confirmed that disciplinary measures could be taken against Dawn’s Editor Zaffar Abbas and reporter Cyril Almeida over a report published in October 2016 by the newspaper based on sources within the government.
The group also noted that the prime minister’s office said in a statement that the story “had no relevance to actual discussion and facts” but a part of the establishment “insisted on the creation of a commission of enquiry with the aim of punishing those who had leaked classified information”.
The enquiry led to the removal of several government officials, it added.
“Dawn is Pakistan’s oldest newspaper and enjoys a great deal of credibility with the country’s journalist community, readers and civil society,” said RSF while referring to an editor’s note defending the story: “First, this newspaper considers it a sacred oath to its readers to pursue its reporting fairly, independently and, above all, accurately. The story that has been rejected by prime minister’s office as a fabrication was verified, cross-checked and fact-checked.”
The RSF described the government’s announcement that it now wants to establish a “code of conduct” for the entire print media as “a bid to exploit the case and make an example out of Dawn”.
“This attempt by the civilian authorities and the military to punish journalists is very disturbing,” RSF Editor-in-Chief Virginie Dangles said.
“The authorities must abandon the disciplinary measures and the creation of a ‘code of conduct’ for the print media, which would set a dangerous precedent and make the environment for journalists in Pakistan even more hostile.”
The RSF also noted that four bloggers were recently released by authorities after going missing in January. Pakistan is ranked 139th out of 180 countries in the RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.